Nobody relished Easter more than my youngest daughter.
Caitlyn Eileen looked forward to the holiday-week ritual of coloring hard-boiled eggs with Mom and then hunting for them in our backyard on Sunday morning. She’d ration the chocolates and candies that the Easter Bunny left in her basket to ensure that they’d last for weeks.
She especially loved donning her favorite Easter dress for church and then listening to a sermon that spoke of how Jesus Christ’s Resurrection renewed hope and love throughout the world.
It’s why Caitlyn, now married to Tim Goebel and a mother herself, was thrilled when Dr. Carin Craig revealed the expected due date for their third child: April 13.
“I thought, ‘Wow, my other two babies were early, so there’s a chance I could have her a day early on Easter,’” she said. “I thought it’d be pretty cool because it’s one of my favorite holidays … It’s a time of such hope and joy.”
The best of days, however, was also coming during the worst of times to have a baby. The COVID-19 pandemic has now killed hundreds of thousands all over the world. But Caitlyn refused to “go down that path” of allowing fear to dictate her pregnancy no matter how dire the situation became.
She had come to that mindset many weeks earlier, on Jan. 22 — the day she came up with her new baby’s name: Olive Rita Goebel.
It was the day her 2-year-old son, Levi, had undergone his latest heart scan: The cardiologist reported that Levi would need surgery later this year.
“I got home, put the boys down for nap, and wandered into the kitchen to stuff my face with snacks and chocolate,” Caitlyn recalled. “Then I froze up and completely lost it. I started crying like a baby.”
She eventually looked down at her swollen belly, however, and the name “Olive” popped into her head. She had no idea why — it wasn’t high on their list of baby names. It prompted her to sit down and read the devotional for that day of Jan. 22: Psalm 52:8. What it said stunned her:
“But I am like an Olive Tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love forever and ever.”
After Caitlyn’s two little boys awoke from their naps, Levi ran to the refrigerator, pulled out a jar of olives, and declared, “Eww, icky Mommy!”
“Honestly, I had no clue we even had olives in the house,” Caitlyn said.
The name Olive took root even deeper that night when Caitlyn opened up the Bible that had once belonged to my late mother, Rita.
“I saw that grandma had underlined that same exact olive tree Bible verse I read earlier that day,” she said. “It was confirmed. Olive may not have been our most favorite baby name at the time, but there’s no other name for our girl and I absolutely love it now.”
When she was asked to list her baby’s possible names the next day, a friend said, “Olive is so sweet because it sounds like you’re saying, ‘I love.’
“Then I realized that when Olive gets in trouble and I yell out, ‘Olive Rita!’ it will sound like I’m yelling, ‘I love Rita!’” Caitlyn said. “That will make me smile and keep from staying mad at my girl.
“Rita was my grandma’s name — my most favorite person in the world.”
Caitlyn refused to reveal that name to us and her three sisters when we held a family Zoom conference late in the afternoon of Easter Sunday.
“There’s a good story behind it,” was all that Caitlyn would say.
She did admit to feeling disappointed that Easter had arrived with no baby. But all she really wanted, she added, was a healthy baby.
The coronavirus had taken a toll on her family. Her husband had shut down the kitchen for his catering business, “Neighbor Tim’s BBQ,” because of the risk he might bring home to mom and baby. He’s hoping to restart it later this month.
“My doctor was telling us that if Tim had any symptoms of a fever or even a cold, he wouldn’t be allowed in the labor or delivery room,” Caitlyn said. “The catering side of the business is where we get most of our income, and nobody’s holding events now, anyway.
“But Tim was also developing a pickup and delivery service, and he shut that down, too.”
The doctor also told Caitlyn that if she or the baby got sick, “they’d have to isolate me from her … That would’ve been awful.”
My wife Theresa, who had been present for the births of our other 10 grandchildren, was barred from the delivery room altogether. The new COVID-19 protocol at Cottage Hospital allowed just one person of support.
“I was sad about that, because Mom was so encouraging during my other two births,” she said, “but I was even more sad for her.”
Caitlyn had also “given up on” the idea of having her baby on Easter. The contractions, however, started barely minutes after our Zoom conference, at around 5:45 p.m.
We rushed to their house and got Levi and Graham so Caitlyn and Tim could head for the hospital.
“They took our temperature in the courtyard before we went in and asked a few health questions, like, ‘Have you had a fever? Have you been exposed to anyone with the coronavirus? Have you had a cough?’” Caitlyn said. “They did that twice before we even checked in.
“Tim had to wear a mask during the delivery, and so did the doctor and all the nurses. But other than that, it didn’t seem any different than when I delivered Graham there.”
The delivery went hard but fast. Even her first contractions at home were strong.
“I went into the bedroom at first to hide the pain from the kids, but they knew,” Caitlyn said. “They told me, ‘Mommy, it’s going to be OK.’ They said I should get my water.
“The nurses had me push right when we got there. I was already nine centimeters. Olive was kind of stuck in my pelvis bone. I had to push for over an hour. That was really hard.”
At one point, Caitlyn said, “I can’t do this!” But Tim got her to laugh when he gestured at the female doctor and nurses and said, “Actually, I’m the only one here who really can’t do this.”
Soon thereafter, less than three hours after the first contraction, Olive Rita Goebel — all seven pounds and nine ounces of her — entered the world.
The time was 8:32 p.m. It was still Easter Sunday, and a new light was shining in the darkness.
“All the fears and worries disappeared,” Caitlyn said. “We soaked in our precious little miracle from God.
“Once we saw her, we were reminded that good things are still happening in this world.”